Vuthy Khin Huot, 2016 winner
Vuthy Khin Huot has long been the face of Radio Free Asia in Cambodia and is widely known for his tough questioning of interview subjects including government officials. This year his popularity has soared, as has that of RFA Facebook, as the Cambodian government has begun an all-out assault on the opposition, civil society and the media.
Huot was just 12 when the Khmer Rouge came to power and killed his entire family. After enduring four years of hardship until the regime was overthrown, Huot earned a living making and selling envelopes in the streets.
After the fall of the oppressive regime, Huot moved forward with his life—he got an education, began a decade-long career with the United Nations, and earned a graduate degree in the U.S.
Since starting at RFA in 1998, Huot has reported on a variety of human rights and environmental issues in the country including election fraud, poor working conditions, health care, clean water and land shortages.
Huot coordinated RFA’s first election coverage in Cambodia and has gone on to host election events such as candidate forums and debates. RFA’s coverage became so important to people that in 2013, a government attempt to shut down the station just before the elections backfired with a huge outpouring of support from the Cambodia people.
Huot is a natural-born educator in both his reporting and in managing the Khmer Service. In 2004 as the country prepared for the Khmer Rouge tribunal, he designed a training curriculum and brought in experts in international law, genocide, and history to prepare RFA staff to cover this momentous event. He has conducted numerous training sessions for RFA staff since then not only in the Khmer Service but in other RFA services as well.
As manager of Khmer service, he was instrumental in convincing the country’s first independent station to carry RFA in 2005. Today that station is just one of 13 affiliates broadcasting RFA content.
In 2013, he organized and conducted a radio journalism workshop in cooperation with Pannasastra University of Cambodia with some 600 students applying and over 100 selected and trained. Some of those who attended said that at first they wanted to attend just to be able to meet with RFA reporters whom they have admired since they have listened to RFA. After the course, they said they love RFA even more now that they have more understanding about RFA’s work and its ethics.
Playing a critical role with the Cambodian public
Known as Chun Chan Both in Cambodia, Huot has probably made his greatest impression with his audience while anchoring the Khmer Call Show. In one program that was broadcast on radio and Facebook, he challenged a CPP MP about Cambodian law. The response was overwhelming with over 82,000 people liking the program, reposting it, and producing political cartoons and satires based on the exchange.
More recently, Huot designed and launched RFA’s first daily TV program. It was slated to be broadcast on Sun TV, but so far, the station has failed to open because of government pressures.
Huot is not only recognized in Cambodia and the U.S. for his work, but internationally as well. In the fall of 2015, he was invited to address an Oxfam conference in Italy on how to cover food security issues in developing countries.
Huot continues to report, as well as direct and inspire young RFA journalists, on the wide variety of the injustices with which the Cambodian people live, day in and day out, year after year.